Georgia lawmaker again seeks to tighten hands-free phone law
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia state House member says drivers should not be able to avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones.
Republican Rep. John Carson of Marietta said Tuesday that the current provisions, intended to let people out of a first-time offense, are unenforceable.
State law lets first-time violators appear before a judge with proof they bought a phone holder or wireless headphone and escape a fine. But Carson said it’s possible for people to get caught in multiple jurisdictions and get out of multiple fines because different courts can’t keep track.
“These affadavits are simply not enforceable,” Carson told reporters. “We just think it’s time for this loophole to go. It’s time to close this loophole and save lives.”
Georgia first passed its hands-free law in 2018. Carson said declining traffic deaths shows that it works, but said fatalities rose in 2020. Law enforcement officials have reported more speeders on roads partially emptied by the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not the first time Carson has tried to end the affidavit exception. Last year, Carson pushed a more ambitious bill that would have doubled fines for using hands-on cellphones while driving. This year, Carson said he won’t seek to raise fines, keeping them at $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for a third offense.
Raising fines sparked substantial opposition among lawmakers last year. A committee amended Carson’s proposal last year to lower fines to a range of $25 to $100 regardless of the number of offenses.